Ethiopia: Opposition leaders receive double prison sentences in one week
March 15, 2015
|Young, Educated and Popular: (From L) Daniel Shebeshi, Yeshiwas Assefa and Abraha Desta now condemned to more prison time|
|ADDIS ABABA (March 12) – Three prominent members of Ethiopian opposition parties have been, on top of their charges that landed them in jail last year, given additional prison terms just in one week.|
Andenet Party leadership member Daniel Shebeshi, Semayawi’s Yeshiwas Assefa and Arena’s Abraha Desta were condemned to further prison terms when they welcomed the court’s ruling with “applause,” an act the court considered contemptuous, a court source said.
The first two were sentenced to additional seven months while Abraha Desta, a Mekelle University instructor known for his FaceBook political notes and news reports, was given nine more months of imprisonment for declaring that he never expected any fair ruling from a “kangaroo court.” Altogether, the political prisoners will serve 14 months and 16 months, respectively.
The three prisoners were last year charged with “terrorism”, a catchword that has become synonymous with a government measure of eliminating popular opposition figures ahead of national elections. The next election in Ethiopia is in May this year but no one expects any change to the status quo as the ruling party has not only imprisoned young popular opposition leaders but also decimated their parties under various plots hatched by the Electoral Board, an arm of the ruling TPLF party.
Ethiopia has been under a one-party rule since 1991, though the government holds national elections every five years to project to the outside world the existence of political pluralism in the country of 94 million citizens.
Amnesty Int’l Condemns Arrests
|Habtamu Ayalew, a top Andenet political figure was arrested in July 2014 and remains behind bars|
At the time of their arrests, Amnesty International said the Ethiopian authorities must halt their continuing onslaught on dissent.
All four were arrested on 8 July 2014 in the capital Addis Ababa and the northern city of Mekele on “terror” accusations: a charge commonly used as a pretext to put dissenters behind bars in Ethiopia.
“These latest detentions add to Ethiopia’s ever-increasing number of journalists, opposition members, activists and other dissenting voices locked up for alleged ‘terrorism’ offences,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia Researcher.
“In the run-up to general election in May 2015, the fear is that this number will continue to grow as the government continues its onslaught on dissent. Everyone who has been arrested because of their peaceful expression of dissenting opinions, their blogging activities, membership of a legally-registered political opposition party or participation in peaceful protests must be immediately and unconditionally released.”